The no-flying trend isn’t new. We all know or have heard of someone who prefers to spend hours on a train rather than hopping on a plane to go on holiday. But things have got to a new level with plane shaming, a new concept whereby travelers are meant to feel guilty about the carbon footprint of their flights. The burning topic has taken centre stage after climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed to the United States on a zero-carbon solar-powered yacht last summer. Although the journey was a perilous one, and took days to complete, it is the only way the teen activist accepted to travel across the pond.
Although the impact of flights on the environment and the climate is a growing concern for many people, many think that other forms of transport are simply inaccessible for overseas travels. Budget airlines offer incredibly competitive prices which allows the public to travel for a variety of reasons – to see family, to access healthcare or other treatments, and even to work.
Plane shaming seems to have more reach, as many influencers, celebrities, presidents and ministers are questioned on their use of private planes as a mode of transport. These individuals often take private flights that may carry as little as two people, and yet do not use less fuel than a regular flight carrying hundreds of people.
Furthermore, short flights are said to produce a larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than other lengths of flights. According to Vox, a “one-way flight across the Atlantic from New York City to London emits one ton of carbon dioxide per passenger. There are upward of 2,500 flights over the North Atlantic every day.”
Flying is not in fact the most popular method of public transport, with only one fifth of the global population having ever taken a flight. Unfortunately, this means that these very few amount of fliers are accounting for the 2.5% of carbon emissions worldwide which are due to air travel. Reports also suggest that if nothing is done, by 2050, air travel could account to a quarter of the planet’s carbon budget.
Things are slowly looking up, however. Some initiatives are starting to push the no-flying movement, such as “We Stay On The Ground” in 2018, which mainly aimed to convince people to pledge to living without flying for at least a year. Greta Thunberg travels across Europe by train, and when she was attending the United Nations Climate Action Summit in the U.S, she travelled on a zero-carbon boat. It is said that the Greta effect has caused fewer flights in Sweden, her home country.
However, the individual may not be the one to blame. When asked how she felt on the topic of individuals taking flights less often or not at all, final year journalism student at Dublin City University, Clara Kelly, said “a large majority of people can’t afford to travel by ferry, yet still need to have access to leaving the country”.
Sonja Tutty, vice-chair of DCU’s STAND society, said that individuals should not be the only ones held responsible. “It’s also up to corporations – and especially the aviation industry in this case – to change, because they are the biggest contributors to the problem. Moreover, Instead of shaming people for using planes, governments can try and develop their public transport, and make sustainable alternatives more affordable and accessible,” she concluded.
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